Game of her life from age of 6

Banyana Banyana coach De­siree El­lis re­flects on her past as player and role as men­tor to na­tional women’s team

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - LESEGO MAKGATHO [email protected]

FOOT­BALL is Banyana Banyana head coach De­siree El­lis’s life. The sport is all she has known since she was a lit­tle girl in Hei­de­veld and Salt River, Cape Town, in the 1970s.

“I started play­ing foot­ball with boys at the age of 6. I joined the girls’ team only at the age of 15. Be­fore that, I didn’t know there was girls’ foot­ball. It wasn’t well known be­cause there weren’t many girls play­ing foot­ball,” she says.

When she turned 16, her par­ents took over the club she played for and all her sis­ters were forced to play the game. “They used to say girls shouldn’t play foot­ball… If you have the sup­port of your par­ents, mind­sets and per­cep­tions can be changed. With the na­tional team do­ing so well, ev­ery­one now knows about women’s foot­ball.”

To­day, par­ents saw the value in their daugh­ters play­ing foot­ball. “They (Banyana play­ers) have de­grees, and some get schol­ar­ships from over­seas. Var­sity foot­ball is so big.”

El­lis re­flects on how the mem­bers of the na­tional team are like fam­ily.

“You can­not be a coach and not care. It’s im­por­tant to know who the in­di­vid­ual is, get to know more about them. It’s im­por­tant to know more about play­ers to get the most out of them. I’m re­ally a softy at heart, and some­times play­ers take ad­van­tage.”

As warm as she is, she tries to be firm. She be­lieves there needs to be a bal­ance be­tween the two. “They need to know that they can come to you with any prob­lem.”

El­lis gives credit to her as­sis­tant coaches. “We know each other out­side of the team. It’s not just me. Ev­ery­one plays their part, analy­ses the op­po­si­tion, and we come up with a plan. The play­ers ex­e­cute the plan.”

Now she has her eye on the Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela chal­lenge on Jan­uary 19 and 22, where Banyana will face the Nether­lands and Swe­den. “I’m ex­cited about fac­ing them. We played Swe­den this year, so it was very good prepa­ra­tion,” she says.

On Banyana fin­ish­ing as run­ners-up to Nige­ria in the Africa Women’s Cup of Na­tions, she says: “The play­ers were up for the Afcon. Even when we won the first game, we were say­ing ‘this is just the first’. It was dis­ap­point­ing we didn’t win against Nige­ria but the play­ers gave it their all. We want peo­ple to re­mem­ber Banyana when we leave the World Cup (in France in June and July.”

BANYANA Banyana head coach De­siree El­lis at Safa House Jo­han­nes­burg. She re­gards the play­ers like mem­bers of her fam­ily. | BHEKIKHAYA MABASO African News Agency (ANA)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.